CONCORD, N.C. — After years of worrying about what team he’d be driving for next, Shane Stewart will finally have a sense of stability going into the offseason thanks to a partnership between NASCAR drivers Kyle Larson and Justin Marks.
Larson and Marks have created Larson Marks Racing, a new 410 sprint car team that will begin competition in 2014 with Stewart behind the wheel. Steve Suchy will serve as crew chief for the new operation.
“I’ve raced with Kyle for a few years now when he has come and raced with the sprint car. With his ties with Rico (Abreu) and, of course, with Paul Silva, we just became good buddies,” Stewart said. “He (Larson) had always said that if he got a team and he could do it right, he’d want me to come drive it. He obviously is a man of his word.”
Stewart has been bouncing around between sprint car rides for several years now, but that hasn’t stopped him from winning big races. He is a five-time winner of the Knoxville 360 Nationals and a three-time winner of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals at Oshweken Speedway in Ontario.
The decision to join the Larson Marks Racing team wasn’t an easy one according to the Oklahoma native. There was a second high-profile team that was in discussions to hire Stewart, but at the end of the day he chose Larson Marks.
“It honestly just kind of came down to having the right people in the right places with Kyle’s deal,” Stewart said. “Of course having Justin there and Steve Suchy as obviously having two big pieces of the pie that you have to have to be successful out here (really helped). One of the issues I was really fighting with the other team was, ‘who I was going to get to work on it?’
“So I decided to accept their (Larson Marks) offer. I don’t think I could have picked a better team to be associated with. I think the group of people they’ve got organized to do the team will do it right, first class. I’m just excited to be the man they picked.”
The team will be based in North Carolina and be built from scratch. Stewart said the team is currently working to acquire engines and chassis. The plan for next year is to enter between 40 and 50 events — mostly with the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series — before going fulltime with the World of Outlaws in 2015.
“I think we’re going to try a few different engine combinations, maybe a few different types of chassis and hopefully when 2015 comes we’re going to hit the ground running and try to run for a championship with the World of Outlaws,” Stewart said. “It is a brand-new team. Everything that we are going to have next year is going to be brand new. There isn’t going to be a used piece in any of it.”
For Stewart, knowing what his plans are for the upcoming season well ahead of time makes the off-season much more enjoyable.
“There are a lot of 410 sprint car drivers looking for rides. A lot of good ones. I’m just really honored they picked me,” Stewart said. “It has been a little while since I’ve known what I’m going to be doing come March when we start in Vegas.
“To be with one team and one car is going to be a lot better for me,” Stewart said.